You are browsing the archive for Life Skills.

Sales Psychology – The Theory of Mind

July 25, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Life Skills, Mindful selling, Sales Psychology, Sales Relationships

When we interact and work with people (customers, colleagues, managers, friends, family, etc.) it is important to be able to interpret and understand where the other person is coming from – their perspective, especially if we want to continue interacting and working with them in a manner that is beneficial to both parties.

Interpreting and understanding where another person is coming from does not automatically imply that we agree with their perspective.  We may not agree. However, we at least know where they stand, what their perspective is, how they see the world. Ideally, the other person would respond in kind but that is not always the case.  It is critical to our survival that we understand that others might see things differently to ourselves.

This is about Theory of Mind.

customer-relationshipImagine that you are conducting a test with preschool children:

  1. You get a tube of M&M’s and take out the chocolate and put in coloured pencils.
  2. You then ask the child what they think is in the tube (they haven’t seen you take out the chocolate and put in the pencils) and they would (if they know what M&M’s are) say that they think there is chocolate in the tube.
  3. You then show them that there isn’t chocolate, but pencils in the tube.
  4. You ask them: ‘if your best friend (name) walked through the door and saw the tube, what would he/she think was in the tube?’
  5. If the child says pencils, the test is failed. If the child says chocolate the test is positive.

What is being tested here is if the child has developed Theory of Mind or not.

Theory of Mind is the ability to interpret and understand another person’s mind and see their perspective. Successful sales / business professionals have Theory of Mind.

Theory of Mind is a theory insofar as the mind of a person is not directly observable. Therefore one has to make the presumption that others have a mind because each human being can only intuit the existence of their own mind through introspection, and no one has direct access to the mind of another.

Having Theory of Mind allows a person to attribute thoughts, desires and intentions to others, to predict or explain their actions and to posit their intentions.

Empathy is a related concept of Theory of Mind. Empathy means there is recognition and understanding of the different states of mind, including beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others. It is the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes”.

empathy-explainedWhat is interesting is that Theory of Mind appears to be an innate potential ability in people, but an ability that requires social and other experiences over many years to bring to cultivate and bring to fruition.  We know that different people may develop more, or less, effective theories of mind.

To be able to accomplish this essential capability successfully is a life time’s work.  It involves the regular practice and coordination of many skills and capabilities including: active listening, questioning, empathy, reflection, analysis, interpretation and association, paraphrasing, innovating, challenging ideas, assertiveness, diplomacy, etc.  These capabilities, in themselves, can and need to be crafted over many years as a part of our sales / business and people resources if we are to master our roles as sales professionals and leaders.

The mastering of this psychological construct is essential for our success in any professional or personal relationship, especially Sales.

Why is Theory of Mind important to sales and business?

You cannot hope to survive or thrive in business or life without a well developed Theory of Mind. Only through the continuous practice and implementation of Theory of Mind can we fully understand our colleagues, partners and clients’ perspectives and then look for mutually beneficial solutions based on real, tangible and fair exchanges of value.


Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD www.barrett.com.au

Enthusiasm in Selling

February 22, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Life Skills, Sales Skills, Sales Talent

There is a popular fallacy that salespeople are born, not made. Whilst there is some vestige of truth in the statement, it is not for the reasons made so popular – i.e. it’s not that salespeople have the ‘gift of the gab’ but rather because these successful salespeople are genuinely enthusiastic about what they do and helping prospects find a solution.  These salespeople have a purpose to what they do and enjoy the process of discovery, problem solving and collaboration with others.

This does not mean that they are the life of the party or always talking about this and that.  Enthusiasm should not be mistaken for extroversion.   You can have people who are quiet, attentive but none the less enthusiastic about their passion, their purpose in life.

spark of lifeEnthusiasm is that extra spark that provides inspiration to have the confidence to take on the world. It is contagious and when mastered, it has enormous power.

Consider this approach to life…

We have a challenge.  We take action. We succeed.  Therefore we have a great deal of enthusiasm.

The statement however is presented in the wrong sequence.  It should read…

We have a challenge. We generate enthusiasm for addressing the challenge. Therefore we succeed.

Few people are enthusiastic because they solved a problem; they solve a problem because they are enthusiastic.

The fortunate thing about enthusiasm is that if can be developed by combining three simple elements that we all have…

  1. You must have an INTEREST in what you’re doing
    You can hardly be expected to be enthusiastic about anything until you have some interest, and unless you know something about the subject, project or issue you cannot develop that interest.
  2. You must have KNOWLEDGE of what you’re doing
    Ignorance is bliss, particularly when you don’t really care or have no desire to be enthusiastic.  But when you do learn something new and you begin to understand its importance, your enthusiasm gathers speed. The more you know the more enthusiastic you become simply because you can see more opportunities.
  3. what is stopping youYou must have BELIEF in what you are doing
    If you don’t believe what you are saying you can’t expect to be enthusiastic.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  No one can be exposed to its radiant force without being positively affected.  It is power. The true enthusiast expresses power naturally and excellence is just a normal way of life. 

To sell really well it helps to be enthusiastic about your company, your products, your team and what you stand for.  If you can get that right there is no stopping you then.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

Empathy – The New Sales Edge

January 18, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Brain Science, Complex Selling & Transactional Selling, Emotional Intelligence, Life Skills, Mindful selling, Neuroscience, Sales Psychology

Late last year we published the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each sales trend in December.  Over the year we will delve a little deeper into each sales trend.  To kick off the New Year we will focus on the Sales Trend Empathy.

This sales trend is seeing smart businesses making it a priority to redress the balance and develop our brains’ Interpersonal sensitivities: our empathetic side to take into account the needs of others as well as our own needs.  We will see people working more in collaboration for the mutual benefit of each other while maintaining the best of analytical thinking and risk taking. 

Why?  Well, 2 reasons:

  1. Sadly, for some years now the business world, by and large, has been worshipping at the corporate alter of Profit which has created an Empathy deficit… and most people (read employees, customers, communities, etc.)  do not like it.  It’s not sustainable by itself.
  2. There has been, and still is, a shift away from product as central to the complex sale with businesses and markets becoming more intertwined, and people now featuring at the heart of viable business relationships.   

emotional qualities such as compassion, empathy, and benevolence can be trained

And the good news is that the emotional qualities such as compassion, empathy, and benevolence can be trained: they can be proactively developed and mastered.

Effective selling and building profitable businesses in 21st Century is all about developing viable relationships based on real value and substance which is a combination of the tangible and intangible.

The challenge will be to reconcile the prevailing norms of the cool headedness of the analytical thinking brain and the risk taking brain of the ‘cowboy’ entrepreneur with the empathetic moral compass brain as we navigate and manage the impact of our decisions on individuals, customers, suppliers and communities.

However, making Empathy a priority is not that easy.  A lot of emphasis has been placed on the importance of being ‘analytical’ in business, being rational, yet the newspapers are littered with stories of CEOs and leaders whose rationality and analytical thinking was of the highest order yet the decisions they made failed to consider the people factors, at worst, put the lives of people and communities at risk, destroying or severely eroding their business brands and future viability as well, creating horrendous consequences for those affected by their decisions.

We also read countless stories of risk taking entrepreneurs who are lauded as business celebrities one day for the way they have taken a business from zero to hero faster than the speed of light and then canned the next when their venture takes a dive leaving people jobless and out of pocket, and investors poorer for the experience.

Interestingly, in this increasingly complex world, capabilities such as empathy, compassion and benevolence are emerging as critical qualities of highly successful people, teams, organisations and communities. Even in the highly competitive world of business and selling, it has been found that those sales people and leaders who are able to incorporate these qualities into their daily work and personal lives are finding greater levels of success. This is coming in the form of better sales results and healthier, more prosperous client relationships as well as better personal health, resilience, and overall job and personal satisfaction.

Numerous articles and books are written about that ‘One thing’ or that ‘Secret to Success’ that will solve all your issues – and what happens? It doesn’t work by itself – it needs to work as part of a system.   And so it is with the brain.  The brain is a complex network and being able to access and develop key areas of the brain allowing them to work in concert and counterbalance each other for positive outcomes is the key. 

If you want to understand more about Empathy as a powerful societal force you may enjoy watching a very interesting video (see below)  about a concept called Outrospection by philosopher and author Roman Krznaric who explains how we can help drive social change by stepping outside ourselves. 

Now is the time to reconcile and place equal importance on developing the empathetic parts of our brain as our new sales and business edge.

If you would like to you can purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 now to see which sales trends will have the greatest impact on your sales optimisation efforts in 2013.

 Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

Sales Lessons out of the mouths of babes

December 13, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Life Skills

‘Out of the mouths of babes’ is one of those expressions you hear adults utter occasionally.  Often amazed at the remarkable or insightful things children say, I think we do children an injustice by thinking this is an infrequent or rare occurrence.   The many children I have met over the years are very perceptive, smart and able to see through weak arguments and call people on them, even if the children, themselves, have not acquired the worldly experiences we accumulate as adults.

climbing frame

persistent, focused, determined, creative, curious and uninhibited

You may recall that I wrote an article a couple of years ago titled, ‘Where is your inner 6 year old when you need them?’ In that article I pointed out that the very qualities we want in effective salespeople are those we often see in young children.  The wonderful thing about most children is that they are persistent, focused, determined, creative, curious and uninhibited.  They often stand their ground to get what they want – many of them are unyielding… at least for a while until society in some way shape or form knocks these qualities out of  many of them. 

Sadly, too many times we inadvertently shut down these very qualities we want to encourage in later life.  So it was with great pleasure and curiosity that Peter Finkelstein and I recently attended a business presentation pitch prepared by two young boys from The Melbourne Montessori School*.

max spencer mms

max & spencer during the presentation

A couple of months ago one of the teachers,  informed us that, as part of their end of year project, Max (aged 11) and Spencer (aged 12)  wanted to do a business pitch and were wanting honest feedback on their idea and a chance to present in front of experienced business professionals.   Peter Finkelstein, our head of sales strategy, and I jumped at the chance to see how well these young boys would stand up and deliver in this space.   The result was amazing; far better than we hoped for and, far better than many adults we have seen perform in similar conditions.

So what was it that made these boys special?  Well let’s set the scene with some background information.   Firstly the boys were allowed and encouraged to do this assignment as a part of their school education.   This was seen as normal (and so it should be).

The Business of their Business: Max and Spencer’s business specialises in creating new innovative products and ideas.  They then look for viable business partners who can manufacture and distribute these products in various markets showing them how they could grow new markets, make more sales and, yes more money.

lego graph bar

present an exciting concept for Lego to make profit

The purpose of their presentation: To present an exciting concept that could open new markets for Lego. (It was our job as the adults to be Lego executives in this instance.)  Post the presentation we were able to ask questions and the boys would do their best to respond.

The boys had invested many hours in researching their markets, coming up with ideas and concepts, preparing a detailed presentation with the WIIFM (what’s in it for me the customer), product designs, target market information, projected earnings, partnership and IP arrangements, etc. It was impressive.

After the hour long presentation and Q&A session, Peter and I were walking back to our office discussing what we had just participated in. 

Peter says the analogy is simple. “As young minds, we are free spirits, less inhibited and prepared to ask questions. As we grow into adulthood we become reluctant to ask, more conscious of our egos and more willing to guess at the answers.”

Peter went on to say, “Well, this week I learned another valuable lesson that all salespeople – myself included – can learn from. And you guessed it, it was from two elfin-like boys.

Asked to do a business presentation as part of a school project these two boys researched the facts, had a clear view of what they wanted to say and what they wanted to get out of the presentation. And here’s the rub… they stuck to their guns.

Quizzed after their presentation by five adults – two of whom were total strangers – these boys were prepared to answer the questions, courteously refute and counter argue with adults, without displaying any disrespect. But the big thing is that unlike many salespeople, when pushed, they didn’t back off and offer discounts or rebates, special deals or off the table discussions. They presented cogent arguments for why their proposition was valid and in the best interests of the customer.

Here were two youngsters demonstrating that if you are confident in yourself and in your presentation, if you truly believe that you are offering value that the buyer wants, there is no reason to resort to needless discounting.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

There were many other lessons to be gained from the exercise, but for me watching the two boys perform I couldn’t help but think of the many excuses I have heard from salespeople over the last 40 years about why they didn’t get the sale. What came to mind was the counter-arguments put forward in the many coaching sessions I have had, when I tried to point out that the salesperson backed off too early, or failed to fully grasp the value of his or her proposition. When challenged, these youngsters relied on facts to support their argument. They had researched their argument and had hard, irrefutable data to back up their claims. Now, if salespeople took the trouble to do the same thing, rather than relying on someone else to produce a brochure, sales would be that much better.”

I agree with everything Peter said.  But what I also love is that these children wanted and were allowed to do this project in the first place.  I know there are other schools encouraging similar projects and it is a testament to a teacher’s ability to see the valuable lessons at every level of this project.  Here are just a few examples the teacher gleaned as being educational and relevant to school and business:

  • Maths: working out percentages, averages, values, distribution, pricing, margins
  • Language and Communication: written and verbal; getting your message across and making yourself understood; asking and responding to questions
  • Research: finding and gathering information; making sense of it and putting it into sensible charts that can make effective cases
  • Design and spatial awareness: creating specifications and plans, mapping country distributions
  • Interpersonal skills: presentation skills, questioning and listening, thinking on your feet, etc. 
  • IT: using PowerPoint, the internet, computers, etc. for all sorts of things.
  • Confidence and resilience

I do not know if Max and Spencer truly understand the feat they achieved that day and in this project.  They may think that they could have done better and of course we all can, but Spencer and Max, Peter and I want you to know that you did an amazing job; you were outstanding and no doubt this experience will be a bedrock in your foundation of life if you want it to be.  The courage, confidence, consideration and determination you displayed will take you far.  We are indeed very proud to have attended your pitch presentation.   

So as the school year comes to a close I think we can all take heart that some of our future leaders, business entrepreneurs and innovators are already planning their and our futures.

*Some of you may be aware that my children are Montessori educated. A Montessori education is characterised by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society. It teaches children how to think, not just what to think and encourages an enquiring, curious mind that wants to explore Why? How? Why not? as much as What?. FYI Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google fame are Montessori educated. I want to say thank you to Naomi, the Melbourne Montessori Cycle 3 teacher who encouraged Max and Spencer, and to our Principal, Gay Wales and the other parents who attended the presentation and treated it with the professionalism and respect it deserved.  More power to you.  And while they do say it takes a brave mother to raise a Montessori child , I wouldn’t have it any other way.

sales trends 2013

sales trends 2013

PS You can get a Sneak Preview as well as purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 now to see which trends will have the greatest impact on your sales optimisation efforts in 2013.   In the meantime you can download our past trends here for free.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

On your marks… Get set… GO!

December 6, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Education in Sales, Life Skills, Sales Training, Self Development, Self Promotion, Success

A prosperous life after elite sport is critically important to elite athletes as many of them have dedicated the best part of their lives (some into their 30’s) pursing excellence in their chosen sport often leaving education or business pursuits on the side.  These elite athletes know that achieving excellence in sport requires dedication, determination, discipline and sacrifice.  So what do you do career wise after a life in elite sport?  Or what can you do business wise while still pursuing your sporting goals?

These are just two of the many questions asked by the ACE (Athlete Career & Education) advisors of the many Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) athletes when looking for this year’s participants in the third VIS Barrett Business Scholarship program.

victorian institute of sports logoFor the last 2-3 months I have been working with 11 elite athletes from the VIS helping them develop their business ideas and actual businesses via the VIS Barrett Business Scholarship program.  And this week three of the athletes stepped up and presented their vision and Go-to-market action plans to a panel looking to win a business/sales coaching scholarship with Barrett in 2013.

The process has been amazing for all concerned with some incredible insights, ideas and initiatives now in progress and of course, there was a winner.

What was fantastic about the 2012 program is we had athletes from many sports including able-bodied and paralympic athletes: wheel chair rugby, track & field, golf, cycling, rowing, canoeing slalom, snowboarding and equestrian/para-triathlon; we had Olympic and Paralympic medalists and an athlete who had just returned from their third Olympics campaign looking at their 4th in 2016 at Rio.  

What was even more amazing was the range of businesses that were represented on the program, each very different and each requiring a considered approach about how they need to get to market and position themselves effectively to win the hearts and minds of their customers and markets.  

Using the Sales Essentials Models, philosophy and principles coupled with brain science we worked together developing viable Go-to-market action plans for each of their businesses or business ideas.  The collective learning shared across the group really accelerated the understanding of how businesses can differ in how they need to go to market.   While there are common elements to be applied in all aspects of a functioning business and especially in sales, the real learning came when the athletes realised how they needed to fine tune Go-to-market action plans to hit the spot and get traction.  For instance when we looked at prospecting and developing new business each participant  needed to consider how they would prospect for new opportunities and get new clients on board.  By comparing and contrasting businesses we were able to see the weighting in direct calls to individuals or a weighting to social media campaigns needed in each case and there were distinct differences.

Alli van Ommen

Alli van Ommen (Victorian Tigers vs Drummoyne Devils)

Like the action and results oriented people they are, after each session these athletes would go out and apply what they learnt and examined, bringing back real life examples of the applications of their  efforts to the group.   Each session they continued to build on solid foundations.  What helped is that we created a  peer to peer learning environment which is a fantastic way to accelerate learning. With four sessions run over 2 months the athletes were able to gain entire group experiences ‘positive interdependence’, face-to-face interaction, group processing and individual and group accountability while working on their own businesses.   We consciously orchestrated each learning exercise which allowed the participants to fully engage in peer learning and reap the benefits.

What I love about this program is the opportunity to work with high performance individuals and see the ease with which they can transfer their knowledge and experience about being an elite athlete into the business arena.  Open to learning and not frightened to be challenged, here are some of the athletes’ insights from the program:

  • I never thought I was in selling and then realised that indeed I am in sales every day. If I do not make those calls then nothing changes and I get nowhere fast. However if I make the calls and the answer is ‘No’ at least I know.  But to my pleasant surprise there are so many Yes out there I just keep calling and guess what, there is business out there.
  • I realised that I had to pay as much attention to the prospect pipeline as I did to the customers we had got on board, if I didn’t we would have no business next season.
  • Getting the value proposition right and making it resonate with customers was crucial.  It is so important to see the world from your customers’ eyes.
  • I never knew really listening to someone was so hard – but when you do it’s really worth it.  Those listening and questioning exercises are vital.   
Steph Hickey, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg, Warwick Draper

Steph Hickey, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg, Warwick Draper(top to bottom)

Not all the athletes chose to go to final presentation evening; some were still working their way through the formation of their business ideas.  But those who presented did an excellent job. The panel was extremely impressed and it was a tough decision to choose the winner.

Our finalists were:

Warwick Draper was the eventual winner after a tight race to the finish line, so watch this space.  If you want to know more about Warwick hear him speak about his preparation for the London Olympics. 

And if you are interested in how past participants and winners of the VIS Barrett Business Scholarship program are doing you can listen to and watch them via the youtube links below. 

Alli Van Ommen (sport – water polo; business – osteopathy)

Shane Reese & Luke Harper (sport – swimming and life saving; business – swim school)

Matt Berriman (sport – cricket; business digital media, general manager, business leader)

Don Elgin (sport – paralympic bronze medalist 2000 Sydney, athletics, business – speakers bureau)

Again it has been a privilege to watch new businesses come to life and work with such an amazing group of people.


Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

Switch to our mobile site